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Middle Bit: The Athletic raises $5.8 million for sports news coverage; A robot is coming to St. Louis grocery stores

Des Moines Startup Ecosystem

Founders of The Athletic—an 18 month-old online sports publication—Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann raised $5.8 million in new capital from investors, according to 

According to the story, Mather and Hansmann have no journalism experience but plan to, “scoop up” laid off writers after ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and Yahoo Sports all made cuts to their sports staff this year.

The Chicago-based company first launched in 2016 on the hunch that it was the year for the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series and had 1,000 subscribers after eight months. It now has sites with news dedicated to Cleveland, Ohio; Toronto and Detroit, Mich.

Subscribers pay $40 for “Premium Sports News & Analysis.”

Robots in grocery stores

Tally—a slender robot—will be roaming the aisles at select Schnucks grocery stores in St. Louis on the lookout for out-of-stock items and verifying prices, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. 

According to the story, Tally is 38 inches tall and doesn’t have limbs but has two blinking eyes on a digital screen.

Maryland Heights-based Schnucks has 100 stores in five states and began testing the robot Monday. The pilot test will last six weeks.

A robot will appear in two other stores as tests, according to the Post-Dispatch.

IEDA approves $111 million for investments in Iowa

The Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded direct financial assistance and tax benefits to seven companies for job creation and expansion projects, according to an IEDA news release Friday.

According to the release, the Iowa Economic Development Authority approved over $111 million in capital investment in Iowa. The board approved planned or proposed projects located in Ankeny, Des Moines, Fairfield, Huxley, Independence, Oskaloosa, Polk City and West Des Moines.

What else happened…


Colorado-Springs based jumbo air tanker is approved to fight wildfires – The Denver Post


PhysIQ—a Naperville, Ill.based—provider of proprietary predictive analytics for human physiology, raised $8 million in Series B funding. 4490 Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Quark Venture Inc. and LionBird.


Six new stores revealed for new outlet mall in Altoona – The Des Moines Register


Invest Nebraska brings capital to raises to state’s communities –


Lyft returns to Kansas City –

Kansas City group wants to set world record for coworking –

Gov. Grietens seeks entrepreneurs input –

Governor wants Missouri to be welcoming to startups – Missouri Business Alert


Bright Health acquires marketing agency Spyder Trap –

Minneapolis police will turn on body cameras for any call –


Apple supplier Foxconn to produce display panels in Wisconsin – The Wall Street Journal

Foxconn announces $10 billion investment – Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin company offers to microchip employees –

Middle Bit: The Athletic raises $5.8 million for sports news coverage; A robot is coming to St. Louis grocery stores | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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